INVITATIONS for various Balfour Declaration Centenary events started going out more than a month ago, and now the first of these will take place at the Weizmann Hall in Jerusalem’s historic Jewish Agency complex. Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann, had much earlier had a profound effect on then British foreign secretary James Balfour, whose famous declaration was issued on November 2, 1917.
The Weizmann Hall of the Jewish Agency is a most suitable venue for the November 2 Balfour Centennial event, which is being co-hosted by the Balfour Centenary Committee, the Jerusalem branch of the Jewish Historical Society of England, Europeans for Israel and StandWithUs. Speakers will include Leslie Lord Turnberg, the author of Beyond the 100-year Quest for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, former Canadian ambassador Vivian Berkovici, Philip Weyers, the great-grandson of Field Marshal Jan Smuts, who was also a premier of South Africa, a strong Zionist supporter and a member of the British War Cabinet during World War I, and Sarah Meron, granddaughter of Rebecca Sieff, a close friend and major supporter of Weizmann and the co-founder with Vera Weizmann and three others of WIZO, the Women’s International Zionist Organization, in London in 1920.
A great deal of money from various members of the Sieff family went into promoting the Zionist cause and helping the development of Israel before and after statehood. Among their many projects in Israel are the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Sacher Park in Jerusalem, the Ziv Medical Center in Safed (which is actually named for Rebecca Sieff), as is the Rebecca Sieff Family Center in Jerusalem.
JERUSALEM will continue to look like a never-ending construction site due to the inability of the city council and the Israel Lands Council (which sets policy for the Israel Lands Authority) to leave well enough alone. The council, which is headed by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, has decided to get rid of the cultural center adjacent to the Italian Museum on Hillel Street and to give one of its floors to the Jerusalem Municipality for the purpose of expanding its cultural activities. The municipality had the status of a protected tenant in the center, which helped immigrants preserve their traditional cultures while being absorbed into Israeli culture.
In contrast, the Italian Museum, just a few steps away and sharing a patio, is uniquely Italian and includes a working Italian synagogue. The cultural center’s plot is to be marketed by the Israel Lands Council to hotel developers, residential complexes or commercial enterprises.
FOLLOWING its highly successful mid-September Get Refusal Prevention Project, IYIM, the Israel branch of the Young Israel Movement, is planning a similar event in Beit Shemesh, at a date to be announced. The “get” in this instance is not an English word, but refers to a Jewish bill of divorce. Without such a document handed by the husband to the wife, wives are trapped in the marriage. One view is that the solution to this problem is a prenuptial agreement, but many young couples don’t consider such an option before getting married. IYIM offers them the opportunity in a program initiated and led by Dr. Rachel Levmore, the director of the IYIM Agunah and Get Refusal Prevention Project, and Rabbi Shai Finkelstein.
More than 50 couples participated in the program at the Kehillat Nitzanim synagogue in Baka, where they were also treated to good food and good music that helped to alleviate any tensions they may have had. Everyone had a good time, and the couples were told that they were making history on the road to tikun olam – repairing the world.
AFTER BEING under threat of closure for several years, and saved only by intervention of the Jerusalem municipality in response to protests by residents of the German Colony, Baka and Katamon, the popular swimming pool in Emek Refaim will close for good at the end of this month to make way for the construction of a luxury high-rise apartment complex.
Fortunately, the YMCA recently completed its new sports and gym center, so water enthusiasts who want to make a splash can do so at the Y. There are also the options of the pool at Kibbutz Ramat Rahel and the Olympic-size pool at the arena in Malha. In addition, several hotels allow members of the general public who are not necessarily hotel guests, to use their pools – but in most cases the cost is very high.